Her Life, Her Terms: Huda Alvi is Raw, Real, and Ready to Take on the World
The tagline on Huda Alvi’s website says it all: My Life, My Terms, My Style, My View, My Opinions, My Choices. This smart, classy, and cool C.E.O chick shares her story of resilience, persistence, passion, and purpose. Buckle up for Huda’s latest adventure, The Girls Trip, a “Bad Ass Tour Company… activating curated travel for women around the globe."
We know you want to keep it real…let's get the rough patch out the way.
I migrated to Canada at 12 and got married at 18. As a Muslim woman, there are a lot of things that hold us back -- one of them being our culture's no-dating policy and [the expectation that girls transition] straight to marriage. While working a summer job at the age of 18, I met someone 8 years older than me. Being a young and free-spirited girl at the time, I was unable to see that we had very different upbringings and values. Culture clash was just one of many challenges we faced along with a 6 year age gap. We only knew each other for a month before we got married. Once again, dating was a big no-no, so the only solution that was suggested was marriage -- so I did.
I got pregnant at 19 and had my daughter, Jasmine. Two years later, I had my son, Zaid. During this time, I was unhealthy and unhappy, and my voice had been silenced for a very long time. Being a young mom of two in my early twenties with little support from the one I called my husband led to loneliness, loss of friends, and depression and anger towards the world, which made me a very unhappy soul. Our marriage was falling apart. There was nothing holding us together -- [there was] a lot of verbal abuse, accusations, and drug abuse that I was unaware of before getting married.
I don’t know how I found the strength, but I did. At that point, it was fight or flight. With the support and help from my parents who saw my sadness, I packed up my stuff and my 2 kids and I left. I moved in with my parents for five years, occupying a single bedroom in their house for all three of us. I secured a job (I wasn’t working before) and started over as a single mom.
While I feel like I missed out on a more typical young adult experience, it was extremely liberating to be given a second chance, and I’m forever grateful to my parents for standing by me and lifting me up.
I eventually met an amazing man who is now my husband (Bub), and I now have an awesome step-son, Aidan. My parents were able to help with our kids, so I took some much-needed time for myself. I traveled with my husband and girlfriends and really gained my confidence back.
While working for an HR recruiting company, I spent quite a bit of time at SickKids with my daughter who was born with bronchitis Asthma. After less than a year, I was fired because I was out of the office so often, taking days off to be with my kids. I now see this was a blessing in disguise as it gave me the chance to open my own recruiting agency, iStaff, which I successfully ran for eight-and-a-half years, until June 2016.
How did social media and self-development become your focus?
As a divorced and remarried Muslim woman with two kids, with a passion for fashion, I started to put myself out there on Instagram in 2015. Early on, I realized I wanted to share more than fashion. I had a story to tell and I wanted to hear the stories of others, and give them a safe place to have their voice heard.
I was surprised to learn there were other women suffering in silence. Since 2015, I went from 200 followers to over 17,500 today. I have since expanded my work to include workshops and partnerships as an influencer with companies like Amex, L’oreal, Indigo, and more. In 2016, I shut down my recruiting business and went all in. Workshops By Huda is designed around three pillars: 1) Social and Digital Media Education and Development; 2) Entrepreneurship; and 3) Personal Development. Between 2016 and 2018, we have conducted about a dozen workshops with almost 400 women in total. Forums like our Brunch and Inspired series give women a place to connect, uncover their potential and passions, and be inspired to take action.
Tell us about your latest venture, The Girls Trip.
Travel has always resonated with me. During the times in my life when I’ve had limited ability to travel, I've felt stifled. I started talked to women about traveling, what they’re looking for, and what needs of theirs aren’t being met. I also have a great source of insight from my sister, Sana, who is a travel influencer with over 84,000 Instagram followers at @twosaparty_, and has traveled to 20 different countries within one year! Through my research, I discovered that there are three main factors that limit women from traveling: Finances, planning, and the challenge of coordinating with friends.
I saw a need for something that broke through these barriers and gave women the opportunity to cross travel items off their bucket lists – and The Girls Trip was born. One of the key features of The Girls Trip is a payment plan, allowing travellers to pay for a trip over time, instead of one lump sum, giving them the opportunity to travel more often to fill themselves – and their buckets – up!
I launched The Girls Trip in April 2018, with our first 12-person trip to Tulum, Mexico, taking place in October 2019. After the first ten spots sold out quickly, we opened up two more spots. Half of the women are solo travelers – these are women taking their lives into their own hands and it’s incredible to see. We are now planning amazing adventures to five more destinations, including Bali, Greece, and Barcelona. And we just launched in L.A. in July. We are letting the travel industry know....The Girls Trip is here! Something else I’m excited to share: Once a year, I want to give one woman a trip at no cost. There are so many deserving women out there whose lives may be changed by a trip like this. And if I can help in one small way, I will.
To balance it all moving forward, I see everything I do as a lifestyle brand. I want Muslim women – and all women – to know you can get second opportunities in life. I want to empower women in the entrepreneurship space. And I’ve built The Girls Trip to give back. Ultimately, everything works together under one motto – It’s a Vibe. Because it truly is.
What has surprised you the most on this journey so far?
The stories we don’t know about are the most surprising ones. Every woman I have met is doing something incredible. We simply can’t judge – because there is so much we don’t know.
We’re all on the same line – just at different points in that line.
What inspires you about #movethedial? How are your messages aligned?
I automatically felt connected to #movethedial as soon I learned about it. The work I’m doing with The Girls Trip is all about moving the dial for women to help them meet other women and get out of their comfort zone. And speaking out about our experiences is moving the dial too. Because when we see someone speaking out and being raw, it inspires us to do the same. I’ve seen this impact personally so many times.
Do you still see an "inspiration gap"?
Not enough people are talking about the failures people have – how often we fail… how we fail.
I plan to incorporate failures into the work I put out there and the dialogues I help facilitate more and more.
You give a lot of inspiration – where do you get yours?
I’m inspired when I give back. It’s like an intertwined loop of inspiration.
Tell us your story in one sentence.
Before I die, I want to make a difference in the world.
Finally, 5 words to describe you are…
Raw. Real. Trailblazer. Love. Empowered
Guest writer: Jori Lichtman